Ecuador: week of fury after fuel hikes

by AFP/ pic by AFP

PARIS – Protests against fuel price hikes in Ecuador a week ago have escalated into violent clashes, leading the government to suspend two-thirds of its distribution of crude oil.

Here is a recap.

Subsidies scrapped

On October 1 President Lenin Moreno announces the end of government subsidies keeping down fuel costs, heralding price hikes of up to 123 percent.

The measure is among reforms agreed with the International Monetary Fund that will allow indebted Ecuador to borrow $4.2 billion.

State of emergency

On October 2 around 300 protesters gather outside the central bank in the capital. Some demand Moreno’s resignation.

Protests swell on October 3, when the hikes come into force.

Police fire tear gas at crowds who hurl stones and fire bombs close to government offices in Quito.

Around 30 people, several from the security forces, are wounded and dozens arrested. Buses and taxis strike in Quito and other cities.

Moreno declares a state of emergency.

The strike extends into Oct 4 and there are more clashes, injuries and arrests.

Indigenous mobilisation

On October 5 major roads around the country are blocked by farmers, accompanied by indigenous people – an influential group that makes up a quarter of the population.

The government announces the first death the following day, saying a man was run over at a protest in the south.

Indigenous protesters, some armed with sticks and whips, begin heading to the capital.

On October 7 hundreds gather near parliament and there are clashes near the government headquarters.

Oil fields seized

The energy ministry announces on October 7 that protesters had seized three oil fields in the Amazon region. Production is suspended, slashing national output by around 30 percent.

Addressing the nation, Moreno accuses his predecessor Rafael Correa and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of wanting to mount a coup using the indigenous population.

The claim is rejected by Correa, in exile in Belgium, but he calls for early elections.

The government moves to the coastal city of Guayaquil, around 270 kilometres (170 miles) southwest of Quito.

Running battles

On October 8 protesters break into the Congress building. Many of them are again indigenous men armed with sticks and whips.

They are evicted and Moreno orders an overnight curfew to protect public buildings.

On October 9 thousands of people – indigenous people, farmers, students and union activists – march in Quito.

Violence breaks out as a group of masked demonstrators throw Molotov cocktails and paving stones at riot police, who fight back with tear gas and water cannon.

Several people are injured.

Thousands also gather in Guayaquil to condemn the violence in the capital.

Pipeline shutdown

The energy ministry announces on October 9 that it is shutting down one of its two domestic oil pipelines, effectively suspending two-thirds of its distribution of crude.

The protests had cost $12.8 million in lost production to date, it says.